HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 6, 2006

Local Boy Scout troops learn life skills, teamwork, and community service

By Jenni Sebora

Boys in the surrounding communities of Howard Lake, Lester Prairie, Montrose, Waverly, and Winsted are given the opportunity to experience a traditional, values-based program through local Boy Scouts of America.

The nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910 to help young people grow into responsible, well-rounded citizens.

The Boy Scout program, which is for boys, sixth grade through age 18, is active in the area through Montrose Troop 312, led by Greg Youmans and Charlie Nelson and Troop 399, led by Chris Knott in Winsted. Troop 399 has Scouts from the Winsted, Waverly, Lester Prairie, and Howard Lake areas. Separate Cub Scout Packs also serve Montrose, Howard Lake and Waverly, Lester Prairie, and Winsted.

Boy Scouts of America is designed to provide an educational program for boys to build their quality of character, to train in the responsibilities of participating as a citizen, and to develop personal fitness, including physical, mental and emotional fitness, and all the activities are centered on these values and goals.

Local troops are supported by the community and individuals who lead young boys on the journey all the way from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scouts.

Troop 312 was officially founded in 1965 by Nelson, retired army officer Edwin Constotp and Rev. Randall Harvey, who saw the need for such a program in the Montrose area.

Through a mutual effort by all three gentlemen, the troop was chartered in 1965, and the Cub Scout Pack 312 started up the following year, Nelson noted.

The Troop and Pack 312 continue to thrive with weekly meetings.

Cub Scout packs, which consist of boys in grades one through five, meet at den meetings, where they focus on activities for achievement badges, among other activities.

Pack 312, which consists of about 30 members, has weekly den meetings at Montrose Elementary School for the various dens to work on their achievement badges.

Once-a-month large group pack meetings also take place for Scouts of all ages and their parents or guardians to discuss upcoming events, distribute earned awards for the month, and have some fun and camaraderie.

Boy Scout Troop 399 is active with about 29 members. Through its regular meetings and troop activities, the Scouts work to develop character, citizenship, personal fitness, and teamwork.

“We do a lot of activities and games that build up teamwork,” Troop 399 committee chair Rosie Knott said.

Boy Scouts can also work toward the coveted Eagle Scout ranking.

To attain Eagle Scout status, a Scout must complete 21 required merit badges and a project for the church, community, or school, Knott explained.

Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout, Nelson noted.

The Montrose Troop has about five members who are Eagle Scouts, and Troop 399 has about six that have attained the Eagle Scout ranking.

Cub Scouts also work on achieving various merits to work toward various badges.

The annual Blue and Gold banquet is a highlight event for the Scouts, at which members receive earned badges and merits.

Camping, camping, and more camping

Personal fitness and fun are important aspects in Boy Scouting, as well.

Camping trips and camporees are a popular and favorite activity among the Boy Scout troops. Both troops 312 and 399 travel to Camp Many Point in Park Rapids in the summer to participate in such activities as sailing, archery, tower climbing, obstacle courses, and fishing.

“The camp-outs are a favorite with most troops,” Nelson said.

Troops also participate in fall and spring camporees. Winter camping activities include building and racing sleds and developing winter skills.

For the past 99 years, camping has been the cornerstone program for the Boy Scouts, because it provides opportunities that help young people grow, according to the January, 2006 Scouting for Parents publication, a Northern Star Council Special Edition.

Robert Baden-Powell, who started Boy Scouting in England in 1907, believed that the best environment for a youth’s development and character would be through camping and the outdoor program.

Statistics show that the more camping opportunities a Scout has, the longer they will remain in the program and the more benefit they will receive.

There are camping opportunities available for every age level in Scouting.

Cub Scout packs participate in summer day camp outings at local parks.

Lester Prairie Pack 277 and Winsted Pack 399 get together and travel to Oak Leaf Park in Glencoe for their annual day camp outings, and Pack 312 of Montrose and Howard Lake-Waverly Pack 494 travel to Collinwood Park in Cokato for day camp, camaraderie, teamwork, fun, and fitness.

Other camp opportunities offered by Northern Star Council, include Fun with Son, Camp Akela, Camp Kiwanis, Camp Stearns, Fred C. Anderson, and Navajo.

These camps offer a range of opportunities that could include BMX biking, BB gun and archery shooting, pony rides, swimming, sports, hiking, outdoor skills, songs, and campfires.

Other outdoor activities packs participate in include fishing, tubing, sledding, and star gazing.

Lester Prairie Pack 277, which has approximately 47 members, travels to Buck Hill to enjoy sledding and tubing, and Montrose Pack 312 also enjoys sledding as an annual activity.

“Having fun is an important aspect of being involved in Scouts,” Weber said.

“We also like to have fun activities, such as the rain gutter regatta (sailing boats down a piece of rain gutter with water) during the summer,” Weber said.

This winter, Winsted Pack 399, which currently has about 33 members and continues to grow, is traveling to Baylor Park to enjoy cross country skiing.

Pack 399 Leader Greg Bestul noted that its pack activities focus on a lot of hands-on activities to promote learning, including hosting a recent first-ever Pinewood Derby car building clinic at a cub father’s shop.

“We have a lot of new members, and we thought the clinic would be helpful for the boys and their parents to help them with their cars,” Bestul said.

As the Pinewood Derby is a major event for all the Cub Scout troops, there are also many other activities the packs participate in including community festivals, parades, Memorial Day programs and many leadership, service and volunteer activities.

Area Scouts, as well as thousands of other Scouts, will participate in the largest door-to-door food collection effort – Scouting for Food – Saturday, April 29, 2006.

Last year, Scouts collected nearly 500,000 pounds of food for more than 100 food shelves in the two-state area, Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Serving others

Scouts also participate in other local service and volunteer activities.

Among some of the service and volunteer activities Troop 399 participates in, are parking cars at the Winsted Airport chili feed, helping the Winsted Legion with its breakfast and steak fry fundraisers, selling ice at Winstock, and helping out the Knights of Columbus.

Pack 494 treats the residents at the Good Samaritan Care Center in Howard Lake to caroling during the holidays, and Pack 399 sings carols during the holiday season to residents at St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted.

Montrose Pack 312 buses tables for the local Lions breakfast fundraisers and participates in the roadside clean-up program. Pack 277 in Lester Prairie, which has about 47 members, has participated in the Kids Against Hunger community service project.

Fundraising is another activity the Boy Scout troops and packs engage in. Many of the area troops and packs sell Christmas wreaths and popcorn. Lester Prairie Scouts collect and recycle cans; the Montrose Pack hosts a pork chop dinner; and the Boy Scout Troop 399 sells malts at the Wright County Fair.

Lifelong learning

Scouting does not stop at the Boy Scout level. Venturing, which is for young men and women ages 14-21, focuses on special interests like sports, high adventure, the arts, and youth ministry. The main components are leadership, life skills, and adventure.

A Venturing crew exists in the Winsted area. Led by Leonard Stoppelman Jr., the crew has about four or five members who focus on fun and outdoor activities.

“Anyone in the area who is 18 can join,” Stoppelman’s sister, Knott said.

Learning for Life and Exploring include in-school and career awareness programs. These programs give young men and women opportunities to learn about values and character and vocational options.

If a youth is interested in joining the Scouting program, contact one of the area Scout leaders or check out the website www.joincubs.com to find a local pack.

Every year, in September, there is also a special sign-up night known as Join Scouting Night for youth interested in joining the Scouting program.

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